One of my favorite dishes when eating out is French Onion Soup–steaming broth loaded with onions and melted cheese over croutons. I was surprised to discover that my children–who dislike onions of any sort in cooked dishes–also like the soup. And it is not hard to make at home; a great soup on a cold winter day.
My introduction to French Onion Soup was at Chalet Brandt Restaurant, a very elegant restaurant in town with traditional French cuisine. We’d go there for special occasions such as anniversary and birthday dinners over the years; I always ordered the French Onion Soup. It was a sad day when the restaurant closed and eventually the building was torn down.
I have fond memories of these dining experiences and decided to try to make the soup myself this holiday season. It was a hit; leftovers were quickly consumed by my husband. Best of all, my kids like the soup–they’ve never liked onions of any sort and I have to hide onions in dishes.
Nutritional Value of Onions
Onions belong to the allium family of vegetables which includes, garlic, chives, leeks and scallions. The sulfur-containing compounds of these vegetables contribute to the pungent flavor.
Onions add more than flavor to dishes. Onions are actually very healthy; a good source of Vitamin C, B-vitamins and fiber. They are also a rich source of polyphenol–flavonoids–especially quercetin. The “World’s Healthy Food” web site rates onions higher in total polyphenol content than carrots, tomatoes and red peppers and other allium family vegetables. Research interest of the health benefits of onions continues especially the contribution of flavoniods to cancer protection and cardiovascular benefits. So a good reason to hide onions in dishes!
Making the soup
There are just a few ingredients in this soup–onions, beef broth, pepper, port wine, Gruyere cheese, toasted French bread slices. I use large, white onions in the soup; lots of them. The onions should cook a long time on the stove so they are caramelized developing a rich, sweet flavor and overcoming the pungent taste.
To simplify the process, I use canned beef broth–Swanson is my favorite brand. It seems to have a consistent flavor. All canned broth has lots of sodium; even the sodium-reduced broth has plenty of sodium. Extra salt is not needed in this soup. Add the broth to the caramelized onions and continue to let the soup simmer on the stove. A little port wine gives a sweet, tart flavor to the soup.
For the toast, I use sliced French bread, spread with olive oil and toasted in the oven until crisp.
For the cheese, I found an Apple-Smoked Gruyere cheese that tasted great. Usually Swiss cheese or Gruyere cheese is used in the soup. I like this cheese because it has a very mild flavor; it is easy to shred.
Traditionally, the soup is ladled into oven-proof soup bowls. The toast and cheese are added to the soup and it is broiled/baked in the oven until the cheese melts. Lacking oven-proof bowls, I skipped this step. The soup tastes just as good!
French Onion Soup
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 cups thinly sliced white onions
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup port wine
- 3 (14.5 oz cans) Swanson sodium-reduced beef broth
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 6 (1/2-3/4″) slices French bread
- 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (I used Apple-Smoked Gruyere Cheese)
Method and Steps
- Add vegetable oil to a large, heavy pot on medium high heat.
- Add the onions, cook and stir about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and soft.
- Reduce heat to low, continue to cook and occasionally stir (to avoid sticking) for 30 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown.
- Add the black pepper and port wine. Stir to combine.
- Add beef broth. Bring back to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, spread olive oil on French bread slices and place on a baking sheet. Bake in 400 degree oven for 5 minutes or until crisp and slightly browned. Remove from baking sheet and reserve.
- When ready to serve, ladle soup into soup bowls. Top each with a slice of toasted French bread and then top with shredded Gruyere cheese.
Enjoy the soup!
What are the Health Benefits of Onions. MNT since 2003. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276714.php
What’s New and Beneficial about Onions. The World’s Healthiest Foods. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=45